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Championship - Football: Big weekend at both ends of the table

This weekend's Championship action sees promotion hopefuls Fulham and Bournemouth face testing fixtures against two relegation-threatened sides.

League leaders Fulham will travel to Oakwell to take on an improving Barnsley, while Bournemouth's stuttering form will be put to the test when they host Wayne Rooney's Derby.

No signs of Fulham slowing down

Fulham appear to be romping to the Championship title and head into the weekend sitting 14 points clear at the top of the standings following Tuesday's 5-1 thrashing of Swansea - their fourth victory on the bounce.

The success at the Stadium also means Fulham have now scored a staggering 89 league goals this season from their 35 matches, with Aleksandar Mitrovic having taken his personal tally for the campaign to 35 after netting the opener in South Wales.

Marco Silva's high-flyers will now take on a Barnsley team that are just one place off the bottom, but a run of three wins from four during February has seemingly reignited their survival hopes.

However, that belief has been hit over the last week, as the Tykes followed up a defeat at Derby by conceding a stoppage-time equaliser against Stoke during the week - with that draw leaving Poya Asbaghi's side five points adrift of safety.

This should be another win that edges Fulham closer to the Championship title, with the Cottagers priced at 1/2 to leave South Yorkshire with all three points, while Barnsley are available at 19/4 and the draw is 7/2.

While Fulham will head into their fixture against struggling opposition in good form, the same cannot be said for automatic- promotion hopefuls Bournemouth, who followed up defeat at Preston last weekend with a home draw against bottom-of-the-table Peterborough on Tuesday.

Following the 1-1 draw with Posh, Bournemouth boss Scott Parker admitted there is an "edginess" within his squad, with the Cherries, who remain in pole position to secure second place, priced at 1/5 to be promoted.

Another home match against a struggling side is perhaps not what Bournemouth need, particularly as Derby returned to winning ways with victory over Barnsley last weekend.

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It has been well documented that the Rams, who like Barnsley are five points adrift of safety, would be sitting comfortably in mid-table if it was not for their points deduction, and they will be out to further disrupt Bournemouth's promotion push.

Derby were also 3-2 winners when these two teams met at Pride Park earlier in the season and the Rams can be backed at 11/2 to complete the league double over the Cherries, who are available at 4/7, while the draw is 14/5.

Key fixtures in play-off battle

The race for the play-off positions in the Championship remains as tight as ever, with just 10 points separating fourth-placed Blackburn and Blackpool down in 14th.

The weekend fixtures have thrown up some key battles in the race for a top-six finish, including at the Coventry Building Society Arena where fifth-placed Sheff Utd will be visiting Coventry in 11th.

The Blades are one of the form teams in the division and moved into the play-off places by virtue of their midweek victory over another top-six contender Middlesbrough - a result that leaves Paul Heckingbottom's side priced at 7/4 to be promoted.

Another in-form side are Millwall, who have moved into top-six contention after taking 16 points from the last 18 available. The Lions are priced at 9/5 to beat Middlesbrough on home soil on Saturday and Boro could still be licking their wounds from their defeat to Sheff Utd.

Sunday will also see two more play-off contenders lock horns, with Luton and QPR starting the weekend sitting sixth and seventh in the standings, the Hatters one point clear of the R's.

Titanic tussle at Stadium MK

There is no doubting what the game of the day will be in League One on Saturday, as third-placed Milton Keynes Dons will welcome a Wigan side to Stadium MK that sit just a place above them in the standings.

The two sides are level on points, and although Wigan do boast three games in hand, it is the Dons that are the team with all the momentum, as they are unbeaten in their last 10 league games, winning eight of those, including each of the last five.

That run of form has propelled Liam Manning's side into automatic promotion contention and they are priced at 11/4 to finish in the top two, which would secure a return to the Championship for the first time since 2016.

Wigan's form is by no means poor - just one defeat in their last seven league games - but Leam Richardson's side did miss out on a place at Wembley during the week, as they were beaten on penalties by League Two Sutton in the semi-finals of the EFL Trophy.

MK Dons are priced at 13/10 to compound a difficult week for the Latics with a victory on Saturday, while Wigan are 2/1 and the draw is 23/10.

Wellens tasked with saving Orient

League Two strugglers Leyton Orient appointed former Swindon and Doncaster boss Richie Wellens as their new manager earlier this week, with the 41-year-old tasked with saving his new side from relegation.

Orient sit four points above the relegation zone and are priced at 20/1 to go down, but that does not tell the whole story, as the O's have failed to win any of their last 13 league games, taking just four points over that time, a run that has seen them go from play-off hopefuls to relegation contenders.

Back-to-back draws over recent weeks against Colchester and Stevenage has steadied the ship somewhat, although on both occasions Orient had to rely on 90th-minute equalisers.

Wellens certainly has a big job on his hands, with Orient priced at 19/10 to make a winning start under their new boss when they visit Hartlepool this weekend.

Hartlepool will be aiming to bounce back after they suffered penalty shootout heartache at the hands of League One leaders Rotherham in the EFL Trophy semi-finals during the week.

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